“Authenticate the World!”

My speech at the FIDO Authenticate conference, November 19, 2020.

Digital Identity is just a special class of data. It’s often said that the Internet was “built without an identity layer” but what’s really missing is an authenticity layer to safeguard data as a critical utility. Data safety is broader than defending against breaches; a new class of critical infostructure will extend from basic integrity to a larger mission of ensuring provenance, quality, originality and thus the reliability of all valuable data.

The world is racked by fake news, identity theft, piracy and counterfeiting. With AI-driven Deep Fakes on the rise, voice and face biometrics are under threat, but the even bigger problem is truth. How will people navigate the Digital Economy if they can’t tell fact from fiction? How can we trust the evidence of our own eyes, or even our computers?

Authenticity in tomorrow’s virtual world can be rescued by the authentication tools we have today. The FIDO Alliance has been at the forefront of standardizing and consumerizing authentication. WebAuthn and similar protocols ― leveraging personal devices, cryptography, device binding and proof of possession ― will be key to safeguarding the provenance and fidelity of the entire digital world.

This visionary talk traces twenty years of evolution in Digital Identity, showing how authentication protocols, embedded cryptography, IoT and layered private-public trust frameworks are converging on the sort of global-scale infrastructure needed to safeguard the Digital Economy.

Modern authentication techniques ― such as FIDO Alliance protocols and Verifiable Credentials ― are breaking through a long term impasse, delivering more accurate and more reliable data about users.  Here I show how authentication can be extended to better safeguard how all entities and agents interact in the data economy.

Annotated handouts from my talk are available here.